It wasn't until nearly the conclusion of Bruce Allen's 17-plus-minute press conference on Tuesday, his first in more than a year and a half, that the Redskins president spoke of why, after nine seasons and a combined record of 59-84-1, he remains the right person to run the organization.
Allen presided over reporters, fielding questions as the Redskins scout college prospects, before they inevitably reload this offseason, ahead of "the last college football game" leading up to the 2019 NFL Draft.
Asked to describe the disconnect between how the fans feel and how he feels about the state of the organization, Allen said, "Well, I see our standings. We're 7-9. We went through some heartbreaking injuries for the players. If we can keep our team together, I think they saw a good football team. I know where we were at through 10 games and we have to learn to finish the season.
"It's no different than the previous year, not winning the last game of the season, the last couple years. It's heart-wrenching to everyone. The passion of our fans is fantastic. They want us to win. We hear from them. I know exactly they want, they want to win football games. And that is our job, try and find a way to win these football games."
Earlier in the questioning, Allen managed to evade personal accountability for the team's continued mediocrity, clinging to its 7-9 record as a symbol of an organization standing at the precipice of success.
"We're in the middle of the pack," he said. "And we've been in the middle of the pack the last three seasons. It means you're close. It means you're close to being better. And we have to find the right ingredients and the right chemistry to do that."
"Do you believe that," a reporter followed up, "that this team is close?"
No matter how close or far away the Redskins remain from playoff contention, a giant question mark looms at the start of that equation. 34-year-old Alex Smith, after suffering a grizzly leg fracture that has led to countless operations and who knows how many more to come, is only entering Year 1 of the four-year, $94 million deal he signed to come to Washington, which is guaranteed for $71 million. Who knows how long it will be before their starting quarterback can return, if ever.
"He is moving around and well on his way to a recovery," Allen assured. But he stopped short of clarifying whether Smith can return in 2019 or if he's bound for the PUP list.
"Well, let me say this. I appreciate the love and the care that all of our fans have reached out to him, NFL players around the league with this injury. It's a tough thing for him and his family, but all the love and care has helped him quite a bit. We'll see where it goes. We're optimistic. If anyone can come back, it's Alex."
"I'm not gonna get into that and I'm not a doctor," he said. "That's one thing I will declare right here. Never went to medical school. But he's going to follow the doctor's advice and his wife's advice and we'll see what happens. You'll see him around."
As for whether the Redskins' plans for 2019 includes Smith, Allen remained non-committal, saying, "Well, we don't have to make that decision right now. We have some time till free agency and obviously some time till the draft. I think Doug (Williams) and his group will rank all the players and will try and build a winning team for 2019."
Allen did speak on his confidence level in Colt McCoy, telling reporters they liked him enough to sign him to a two-year contract extension last offseason. That runs through the 2019 season.
So what's going on with the coaching staff? Allen: "Coach Gruden right now is still interviewing some coaches back at Redskins Park and we should have a full staff probably within a couple weeks."
Any departures you can tell us about? Allen: "Well, that'll be up to Jay. He's doing a very good job of talking to people, getting some new ideas. It could be anything from a practice schedule to a new defensive coverage, to a new play-action pass, and that's why the more people he talks to, the more ideas he gets. When he blends it all together, we'll have a final announcement."
Even more bizarre, if we're to take Allen's words at face value, Manusky even sat in on some of the interviews that may have been designed to replace him?
"Coach Manusky was in several of those interviews that you're talking about," Allen said. "And once again, we're trying to find the winning combination for 2019 and there's a lot of good ideas out there, a lot of good football coaches out there. And the more you talk to others, the more you can learn, and that's what we're using this next month for."
"He's been in a lot of the interviews, yes," Allen said. "We never interviewed Wilks."
"But, like, in the Todd Bowles interview," Finlay said. "What is that conversation like with Greg talking to another guy that's currently a defensive coordinator/head coach (candidate)?"
"I'm going to leave that profession to itself," Allen said. "Those are private meetings. Once again, there's more conversations going on with coaches around the league than probably has been reported. There's going to be conversations with coaches here tonight, and they might go back and see Jay, and Jay might come down here tonight. He will talk to probably another 20-to-30 coaches around the league."
Apparently Manusky is involved in all kinds of meetings outside his jurisdiction, including one last offseason, according to Allen, set to determine wether the Redskins should pursue a trade for Smith.
Allen commented on the decline in Redskins attendance this season, in which FedEx Field plummeted in league rankings, to 27th in average attendance (61,028) and dead-last in percentage filled to capacity (74.4). Allen was asked how concerning that was to see in 2018.
"Well, our fans are passionate," he said. "I think when we went deep into our depth chart – I'll say it that way – they didn't want to be there for an Eagle victory maybe, at the end."
That doesn't explain the other seven home games, which also factored into the attendance figures above. Still, Allen expects to see "a big change in 2019," thanks in part to some new hires along the business staff, who have "engaged" Redskins fans and sponsors "with a great enthusiasm." Allen declined to get into what the previous business staff did incorrectly.
Alas, will that pesky general manager position vacated by Scot McCloughan two years ago ever be filled?
"We've got a lot of confidence in Doug and his entire department," Allen said of Doug Williams, his Senior VP of Player Personnel. "Alex (Santos) running the pro department and Kyle (Smith) running the college department. Doug doesn't want to negotiate contracts. That's not his forte. He's a great leader of men and he's got a super eye for talent, so we feel comfortable with our department right now."
So, in other words, probably not.